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Holiday Survival Guide: 6 Ways To Survive The Holiday Season

Posted by Issac Ishak on

Your Holiday Survival Guide: 6 Ways To Survive The Busy Holiday Season.


Holiday preparations, family visits, and massive meals… Oftentimes, end-of-the-year festivities can make it feel impossible to avoid missing a training session, possibly gaining a few pounds, and landing on January 1st with a momentous hangover.


That’s why I put together this Survival Guide.
It’s packed with the tips and tricks I use to help Hawk Fit Coaching clients prioritize health, fitness, and nutrition no matter what life throws at them.


Life can be calm and collected.
Or it can be frantic and crazy.
The holidays specifically, offer a healthy dose of the latter.
At Hawk Fit Coaching I often say that your training and nutrition strategies should be easy for you to get done even on hectic days — not just the easy, or perfect, ones. That’s the true beauty of understanding, knowledge, and implementing it all in a way to fit your lifestyle.


Survival Tool #1

Eat slowly and until you’re “satisfied” instead of “stuffed”

The most effective (and sanity-preserving) tool for holiday eating may also be the simplest one: Eat slowly. (And stop at “satisfied”, instead of “stuffed”).


This strategy helps you avoid overeating for two main reasons:


  • Physiological
    It takes roughly 15-20 min for your digestive system to let your brain know that you’re satisfied. If you’re not someone who’s in tune with your hunger/satiety cues- Slowing down allows that to happen, before you overeat.


  • Psychological
    Often times when you slow down, be present, and savor your food, you feel content with much less. This means you’ll eat less, but enjoy what you’ve eaten more.


The benefits of slow eating include better digestion, better hydration, improved satiety, and greater satisfaction with a meal. Meanwhile, eating quicker tend to lead to poor digestion, over consumption, and lower satisfaction.


Some helpful tips:


  • Sit down to eat in a calm environment with minimal distractions. Don’t eat while driving, while watching TV, while texting, etc. Pay attention to your food.
  • Choose high-fiber foods that take more time to chew, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Practice presence. Take a moment. Breathe. If you’re eating with other people, enjoy making witty conversation for a few minutes.
  • Use smaller plates or different utensils. This can be an easy hack to ‘get more’ out of a given meal. Although you’re eating the same quantity, you’ll be going back for more bites which means you can savor your food for longer.
  • Set aside time to eat – at least 20-30 minutes for each meal, and preferably even longer at dinner. Don’t just eat “whenever you get around to it” or treat it as an inconvenience. You’re fueling your body and maybe spending quality time with friends and family. That’s important. It deserves an appointment.


Survival Tool #2

Consistency is the key to success



It’s one of the most common patterns we see among incoming Hawk Fit Coaching clients: Folks who want to get (and/or stay) fit will exercise diligently for months, only to get derailed by the holidays and “fall off the wagon” for the entire year.


I usually create training sessions around these main movement patterns and they entail a few of these exercises:


  • Vertical Push: DB/BB Overhead Presses, Landmine Presses
  • Vertical Pull: Lat. Pull-downs, Chin-ups, Pull-ups
  • Horizontal Push: BB/DB Bench Presses, Push-ups
  • Horizontal Pull: Rowing Variants
  • Hip Hinge: Deadlift Variants, Barbell Hip-thrusts
  • Squat: BB Squat Variants, Leg Presses


 If your gym closes and you have to go to a different gym, you may need to make substitutions. If you need to do just that here’s some ideas:


  • Vertical Push: DB/BB Overhead Presses, Arnold Presses, Machine Shoulder Press
  • Vertical Pull: Lat. Pull-downs, Pull-ups
  • Horizontal Push: BB/DB Bench Presses, Push-ups, Machine Chest Press
  • Horizontal Pull: Row Machine, TRX Inverted Row
  • Hip Hinge: Barbell Hip-thrusts, 1-Arm, 1-Leg Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs), DB RDL’s, Banded Good Mornings
  • Squat: Squat variations, Leg Press, Goblet Squats, Bulgarian Split Squats, Sissy Squats


If you don’t have access to ANY equipment:


  • Get creative! You can use rice bags, resistance bands, bags of potatoes, water jugs, and if you don’t have access to any of those- you can still get a great bodyweight based training session in.


  • Vertical Push: DB/BB Overhead Presses, Landmine Presses, Machine Shoulder Press OR Do more horizontal presses at different angles
  • Vertical Pull: Lat. Pull-downs, Pull-ups
  • Horizontal Push: BB/DB Bench Presses, Push-ups, Machine Chest Press
  • Horizontal Pull: Row Machine, TRX Inverted Row OR Table Rows
  • Hip Hinge: Barbell Hip-thrusts, 1-Arm, 1-Leg Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs), DB RDL’s, Banded Good Mornings
  • Squat: Squat variations, Leg Press, Goblet Squats, Bulgarian Split Squats, Sissy Squats




  • If you’re out of your usual environment I would stick to 2-3 sets across all movement patterns, aim for higher rep ranges, and less rest between sets.


  • Remember the goal should be to just get some movement in, not completely destroy yourself. A couple days of some light training may do more good than you think.


  • Even if you’re not going to train, you can still prioritize movement, even if it’s a walk, light jog, jump roping- the most important thing is you move!


This literally only takes only a few minutes a day, requires minimal or no equipment, and focuses on compound movements which makes it very effective when you want a good session, but have limited time.



Survival Tool #3

Eating well on the go



The end of the year has most people bouncing from supermarket to mall to party to recital — not to mention the planes, trains, and automobiles routine if you’re traveling. When you’re on the go, it can feel like navigating a nutritional minefield: Hunger signals overpowering, junk food everywhere, little time to sit down and eat your veggies.


Challenging, of course, but not impossible. With smart strategies you can eat well on the go no matter where life takes you. Always remember that proper preparation, prevents poor performance!


Pre-pack meals, foods and snacks:


Hawk Fit Coaching clients stay on the go by keeping a few of these select foods with them at any time!


  • High quality protein bars, Protein Powder, Fruit, Raw Veggies and Hummus, Meat Jerky, Celery with Nut Butter, Hard Boiled Eggs, Chicken Breast, Canned Sardines, Canned Salmon, Tuna, Edamame, Nuts and Seeds, and Greek Yogurt.


These are top food sources I recommend especially if you’re road tripping. Oftentimes when we’re traveling there are stores, kiosks, or gas stations that offer a limited selection of foods- but if you know what you’re looking for and that’s your only option. It’s not a big deal. Reach for veggies, pre-made salads, and beyond that:


  • PROTEIN SOURCES: Plain Greek Yogurt, Hard Boiled Eggs, Edamame, Protein Drinks, String Cheese, Protein Bars, Beef Jerky, Flavored Yogurt, Sandwich Meat.


  • CARB SOURCES: Fresh Fruit, Fruit Salad, Dried Fruit, Rice Cakes, Pretzels, Crackers, Granola Bar, Cereal bars, Sandwiches.


  • FAT SOURCES: Hummus, Mixed Nuts, Nut Butters, Peanuts, Seeds, Guacamole, Trail Mix, Dark Chocolate, Chips.



Survival Tool #4

Aim for better not perfect



Whether you be on the go, or staying the weekend somewhere- there’s always a way to stay on track! Generally I always tell Hawk Fit Coaching clients that whenever the holidays come around I want them to be focusing on creating memories with their loved ones. Even if you do happen to overeat, if it’s just a single day, that shouldn’t be something that impacts overall progress if you’re consistent 90% of the time… but when and if the situation requires us to stay on track there’s always a way!


- MAKE IT A BIG DEAL: The ability to quickly track foods and study trends is a huge learning opportunity. Manipulating the data over and over makes it more meaningful.

- MEASUREMENT TECHNIQUE: When possible and if needed (i.e. if you’re dieting) weigh your food with a food scale. Even things like bread, protein, and frozen yogurt.

- CONSUME MEASURABLE FOODS: The more you rely on eating out, using apps to estimate meals, the more room for in-accuracy. Once you’ve developed an understanding of the quantity of macronutrients in certain food groups you’re able to intuitively track what you’re consuming- although this may not be the most accurate means for accounting for what you’re eating it’s better than blindly eating.


When eating out you can ensure to stay on track by:

1. Tracking exactly where/what you're eating through 'MyFitnessPal' or any app that provides you with the nutritional information of food.


2.If you can’t find what you’re consuming then stick to minimally processed foods you’d be able to estimate for (i.e. chicken breast/1cup of rice/side of veggies).

Don't be scared to ask for something if it’s not on the menu (i.e. grilled chicken breast, salad, no dressing), you're out eating restaurants are able to make the accommodation. At the end of the day calories rule, so if you do end up consuming too much fat, or carbs just make sure you hit the required amount of calories.


Proper preparation prevents poor outcomes. If you know you have a specific event, or dinner planned and won't be able to track accurately, then prepare ahead of time. You can ensure that you stay on track as much as you possibly can by prioritizing your veg/protein intake for a majority of the day, therefore when you do go out you’ll have more calories to consume through carbs/fats.


Survival Tool #5

The best calorie control guide



With many of the seasonal foods… Green Bean Casserole, Sweet Potato Pie, Mac and Cheese, Smooth Buttery Mashed Potatoes… The list goes on, tracking macros for these types of foods is often an annoyance and it’s not practical, which is where estimation and portion control comes into play. I always preach that the holidays are a period of time to enjoy yourself with loved ones, but for many of you that enjoy staying on track there are tools that you can utilize to the best of your ability.


Here how it works:

  • Your palm determines your protein portions.
  • Your fist determines your veggie portions.
  • Your cupped hand determines your carb portions.
  • Your thumb determines your fat portions.


While this is a good place to start and under certain circumstances estimating is going to be your best bet— it’s important to understand if there’s no way to quantify consumption in the long term you’re shooting a shot in the dark.


Survival Tool #6




Whether Paleo or vegan, fasting or “feed-often”, Mediterranean or New Nordic, almost all “health-conscious diets” agree on one thing:


You should eat your greens.


This is a corner stone here at Hawk Fit Coaching.


Loading up veg is an effective strategy to avoid gaining weight and body fat during the holidays. They’re water-dense, calorie-sparse, and full of the nutrients you need to keep your energy and mood up for holiday party. #lit


Why is adequate fruit and vegetable consumption so important?

You’ll have a hard time finding a reason not to consume fruits and vegetables each day.


  • They are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytonutrients.
  • They contain lots of water to help you stay hydrated.
  • Because fruits and vegetables have a high water and fibre content, they’re low in calories relative to their volume. Consuming them on a regular basis can result in a higher volume of food intake. Since humans consume a consistent volume of food, a high consumption of low calorie density foods can help to control overall food intake and manage body weight.




Plant foods, especially colourful ones, are a primary source of antioxidants. We need lots of these to curb free radicals formed in the body. Many plant antioxidants are stored in the leaves, where oxygen is active in photosynthesis. Others appear in plant pigments (for example, the anthocyanins that make the blue-purple colours of blackberries and blueberries) and the chemical defenses of plant skins (for example, quercetin in apple skins). Fat-soluble antioxidants are most likely to concentrate in the fatty plant material – such as within the germ.


Studies suggest that consuming a diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components (such as those found in fruits and vegetables) may lower age-related cognitive declines and the risk of developing neurodegenerative disease.


Epidemiologic and clinical trial data demonstrate strongly that a diet rich in plants (including plenty of fruits & vegetables) can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as other chronic diseases. For instance, by simply increasing vegetable and fruit intake, experts predict that we could prevent 20% or more of all cancer causes and avoid approximately 200,000 cancer-related deaths annually.


What you should know


Prehumans may have eaten meat, but our ancestors didn’t neglect plants. After all, a tuber is a lot easier to kill than a wild boar. Our ancestors ate vegetables and fruits in abundance, and we have evolved to reap the benefits of plants’ nutrients.


Vegetables and fruits should make up the base of everyone’s nutritional pyramid. They are the foundation of a high-quality, healthy diet.


Reduce your disease risk


A higher level of fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with a lower incidence of:


  Cardiovascular disease

Colon cancer

  High blood pressure

Prostate cancer

Type 2 diabetes



Eye disease


      Cervical cancer

Breast cancer


Endometrial cancer

Gastric cancer

Lung cancer



Ovarian cancer

Pancreatic cancer

Thyroid cancer


It’s all good


In particular, leafy greens offer some of the greatest benefits. But keep in mind that most produce is good produce.


Variety is also imperative. Studies have shown a direct correlation between the variety of fruits and vegetables eaten and the benefits seen from the nutrients.


More fruits & veg = better diet overall


Most fruits and vegetables are low on the glycemic index and won’t significantly alter blood glucose and insulin levels. This can help with satiety and body composition.


Diets with a foundation of fruits and vegetables tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, and have higher levels of dietary fibre, magnesium and potassium, vitamins C and E, folate, carotenoids, flavonoids and other phytochemicals.


Consuming vegetables and fruits in the form of greens supplements likely provide similar nutrients and can be used when the whole, fresh option isn’t available.


In summary…


The holidays are a period of time to make memories, the most important thing I want you to take away from this article is… Don’t stress about things too much. As I previously said, a couple days unplugging and enjoying that time with your loved ones will honestly do so much good for you. If you’re consistent 90% of the time that other 10% doesn’t really matter all that much. Also realize most people aren’t competitive athletes with time-tables, so be easy on yourself.


Much love to you and your loved ones this holiday season!


Want help becoming the healthiest, fittest, strongest version of you?
Most people know that regular movement, eating well, sleep, and stress management are important for looking and feeling better. Yet they need help applying that knowledge in the context of their busy, sometimes stressful lives.
That’s why I work closely with Hawk Fit Coaching clients to help them lose fat, get stronger, and improve their health… no matter what challenges they’re dealing with.

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